Georgia’s newly adopted anti-immigration law is credited with driving undocumented migrants from the state and costing the agricultural industry almost $400 million.
“Georgia’s economy is projected to shrink by $391 million and lose 3,260 jobs as a result of farm labor shortages this year,” said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing a report by the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
“The report does not cite the reasons for the shortage in laborers in Georgia’s $68.8 billion agricultural industry, the state’s largest,” said the newspaper. “But many farmers complained this year that Georgia’s new immigration enforcement law – House Bill 87 – has scared away the migrant Hispanic workers they depend on, putting their crops at risk.”
The estimated loss of crops includes $29 million from blueberries, $16.3 million from Vidalia onions and $15.1 million from bell peppers, according to the report.
A Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) statement said that 53 percent of the surveyed vegetable growers said that they would decrease their 2012 crop acreage.
Charles Hall, executive director of the GFVGA, criticized Georgia’s anti-immigration bill that was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, a member of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville.
“Georgia is the poster child for what can happen when mandatory e-verify and enforcement legislation is passed without an adequate guest worker program,” Hall said.
Reacting to criticism from farmers over the loss of undocumented laborers, Deal expressed interest in making prisoners available to work on farms.
“This is at least the state’s second attempt to tackle the labor shortages since enacting a tough new immigration law many farmers blame for their problems. State officials started experimenting last summer by encouraging criminal probationers to work on the farms, but results are mixed,” reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Gary Black, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture, cited a farmer who said probationers were “half as productive as his other workers.”
The progressive Center for American Progress released a report in the first week of October titled, “How Georgia’s Anti-Immigration Law Could Hurt the State’s (and the Nation’s) Economy.”
The report made four arguments:
â— Georgia would experience a “severe labor shortage” and that the loss of farm revenue would approach $800 million per year.
â— The loss of undocumented migrants would harm small farmers more than large growers.
â— Agricultural losses would have a multiplier effect across the economy.
â— Decline in agricultural productivity would result in increased food imports and higher food prices.
Screening panelists include: Luis Zarama, auxiliary bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Atlanta; Timothy McDonald, pastor, First Iconium Baptist Church, Atlanta; Mimi Walker, co-pastor, Druid Hills Baptist Church, Atlanta; and Lesley Ediger, program manager, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Service of Atlanta.
For more information about the screening, click here.